Courthouse security a priority

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

Law enforcement and judicial officials on both sides of the river are working to boost courthouse security.

Concordia Parish officials are working hard on a Homeland Security grant to provide security for the courthouse on Carter Street.

Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington and Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Morris White are preparing the proposal, which will include metal detectors for at least the front entrance and a silent alarm system for the judge&8217;s bench.

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Time is a factor, as grant proposals are due in the offices of Rep. Rodney Alexander and Sen. David Vitter by March 1 and 3, respectively.

Vitter and Alexander play big roles in how Homeland Security grant money is divided.

Ferrington said the announcement of the grant application, which the jury received in its February meeting, didn&8217;t give them much time to draw up a request.

&8220;We didn&8217;t know this was coming,&8221; Ferrington said. &8220;If we&8217;d had a month, month-and-a-half &8230;&8221;

White, who is scouting equipment and pricing different options for security, has visited courthouses all over the area looking for ideas.

White said he didn&8217;t want to talk about money before the proposal is completed, but he say he was looking to the long-term.

&8220;The biggest expense is not the equipment, but keeping it tested and having it manned,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;m looking for products that are a better quality with less upkeep, to get the best I can get for every dollar I spend.&8221;

Ferrington said he is meeting daily with White to discuss the situation and Sheriff Randy Maxwell would be consulted before anything was decided.

&8220;He&8217;s the one that&8217;s going to be operating most of it,&8221; he said.

Seventh District Judge Leo Boothe, who would be one of the people with his finger on the button, said it was well and good.

But he said he had never personally felt unsafe on the bench.

&8220;I&8217;ve never had a single problem with security,&8221; he said. &8220;If it&8217;s a grant that doesn&8217;t cost the parish money, I don&8217;t see a problem with it.&8221;

Not that he hasn&8217;t seen action in the courtroom.

&8220;We&8217;ve had a couple (of people) that had to be bound before, but the sheriff has always been very helpful in providing whatever security I wanted.&8221;

In Adams County, Sheriff Ronny Brown said last week all security measures planned for now at the county courthouse are in place.

&8220;Now, all that&8217;s left is working out all the kinks in it before the next court term starts&8221; next month, Brown said.

Panic buttons have been installed in key places in the courthouse and other county judicial buildings to allow personnel to discreetly call law enforcement in an emergency.

All entrances to the second floor, except for the stairway and elevator on the east end of the floor, are closed to the public, with glass doors securing the top floor.

Deputies with handheld metal detectors are posted on the first floor to monitor who goes in and out, and everyone entering the building is screened for weapons and their purses, briefcases and packages scanned.

Adams County&8217;s work is being done with $116,856 in county funds and a $14,355 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.